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Officers' Quarters: Roster cleanup pros and cons

Dwarf with a broom
Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook.

Guild rosters inevitably become bloated over time. They fill up with inactive players or throwaway alts that current members haven't dusted off for years. This week, a guild leader asks when is the right time to remove characters from the roster -- and whether we should even do it at all.

I run a casual guild. One of my officers puts it thus, "We're a raiding guild that acts casual." We have a decent roster and a great group of people, but we also have a lot of people who join, show up for awhile and then disappear. Some come back in six months and some, I have no idea if they are coming back or if they are gone for good.

I like my roster to reflect an active guild, which we are. My membership officer sent me a roster list and I'm in the process of going through it for names that haven't been played in over 6 months. We've been doing a purge like this for the last 3 years and, every time, there's always some consternation about removing names from the roster.

I look through the roster and see names I know and miss, but they haven't played in months and don't really show any sign of coming back. If I was looking for a guild, one of the things I'd look at was the roster, to see how many people are just taking up space. It might be a sign that the guild isn't that active. So, my question is, is 6 months a good time frame for booting people? I'm going to be doing the booting this time because I have finally decided to remove some original members whom I've let slide. What do other guilds do? Just keep people on the roster or do they have another touchstone for when it's time to remove a name? I've done a lot of hard things as GL, but I think kicking people I have come to call friends outside of the game but who aren't interested in it anymore is one of the hardest things to do.

--Scratching My Head

Hi, SMH. I empathize -- I've had to do this many times myself and it can be painful. Just remember that it's normal for players to come and go. They get bored of WoW or any number of issues can crop up to keep them from playing.

Many guilds clean up their rosters on a regular basis. Three to six months of inactivity is a good time frame. Some guilds wait longer. Others kick after a month or so. Their theory is that if someone hasn't been online for a month and felt no need to explain why to the guild, then they probably aren't coming back anytime soon.

The debate

It's not essential to clean out your roster, either. Let's look at the pros and cons of roster cleanup.

Pro: A less messy roster Finding an offline player on the roster can be a hassle when you have to scroll through hundreds of names. A big roster full of inactive players also sends a mixed message to new members. They might wonder why so many members no longer play. If they had any doubts about your guild to begin with, a roster full of unplayed characters won't do anything to reassure them.

Pro: Hackers have fewer options In the era prior to authenticators, leaving people on your roster indefinitely made it far more likely that a hacked inactive member would raid your guild bank. This happened to my first guild on more than one occasion. It's less of an issue now, but it's still something to consider. Not everyone has authenticators (which kind of blows my mind, given how cheap they are).

Pro: Rosters have a cap I believe it's still currently 1000 members. Most guilds will never have to worry about that cap. If you've got a big guild, though, the number of characters can add up fast, especially if your members have a lot of alts. A 200-member guild can quickly balloon to several times that size when, for example, everyone rolls a pandaren monk alt.

Con: Time It's an easy task but it does eat up time that you could spend on more productive tasks.

Con: Returning players Some players will eventually come back to the game or to the characters in your guild. Logging in to say hi to everyone only to find that their characters have been kicked is jarring and unwelcome. They may ask to be reinvited or they may not at that point. You have a better chance of retaining a player like this if they are still guilded when they log in. Even if this is a routine procedure that's specifically outlined in your guild charter, some players will still find a way to be offended by it.

Con: Feels bad It's never a great feeling to sit there kicking inactive players whom you wish would come back someday. It's also a bummer for your members as they see the kick notices scrolling across guild chat. Before you starting doing this, make sure to explain why the characters are being kicked. I also recommend waiting to do it during an offpeak time. If you do it during an hour where people are logging in and out a lot, you can find yourself explaining it over and over.

Cleanup tips

If you choose to go through with a cleanup, warn your guild that it's going to happen. Warn them on your website a few days in advance and then warn them right before you start. That way, members can log on to any alts that they want to keep on the roster. You won't have to reinvite as many characters later and the roster won't look as inactive. Also, if anyone knows of a player who plans to return soon, they can ask you to keep their character(s) on the roster for now.

Second, if players have alts they don't want in the guild anymore, tell them to whisper you to kick them. Don't have them log in and quit. It always causes a distraction when members see a qquit notice in chat, even if the reason behind it is perfectly innocent. Gkicks can also be a distraction, but they don't prompt negative speculation about the guild like a gquit does. If a member has a beef with you or the guild, a gquit notice is an invitation to spout off about it.

Whatever you decide, remember that your active players are of course your priority. Keep them interested in the game as well as you can and maintain a drama-free community. Then you'll have to clean up your roster less often. Don't take it personally when people quit the game, however. It's just what they need to do at the time.

/salute

Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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